What were the main challenges Arada faced during the pandemic and how did you display resiliency throughout?
We are very fortunate that our suffering was short lived during the initial few months. We are more flexible in that we are an agile company able to make quick decisions as a rule. Of course we faced challenges during the lockdown period, in particular due to the impact on our sales. We delivered 1,000 homes in 2020 and this year we are aiming to deliver 2,000 homes. From a sales point of view, we initially saw a drop, but then experienced our strongest ever months in June, July, and August last year. Our resilience was due to many factors, but the most important was people. With the increase in productivity, we were able to find solutions that are a little more creative. There were several campaigns that we supported, including food for frontline workers, providing over 1,000 meals to doctors and nurses at Sharjah hospitals. We provided sanitation gates to police stations and hospitals in Sharjah and provided residents kits with PPE. We did a partnership with Sharjah Private Education Education Authority to provide 1,000 free laptops to support distance learning. We want to give something back and help our community and the community appreciates that and sees that we are not just a property developer.
What distinguished Arada from its competitors?
We do not just build homes but experiences, which starts with the master plan and design. When we design communities we focus not only on the buildings, but the spaces between them, which is often neglected in many places around the world. The spaces between the buildings is where we focus on activations such as sports facilities, as we encourage a healthy, active lifestyle. We also provide amenities for whatever you may require from shopping to restaurants and from entertainment to schools. When customers see our products as we start delivering, they clearly comprehend that what we promise, we deliver on. We have always said our focus is to exceed customer expectations.
What is your perspective on adding sustainability to your developments?
One of the other values of our company is being conscious about sustainability, so we look at it from all aspects, and we certainly don't see it as just a buzzword. We implement it in our developments wherever and whenever possible. For example, in our Aljada megaproject we are combining nature with urban living. We will ultimately plant 30,000 trees and have already planted 5,000 in phase one. Contrary to what many people think, this does not cost a lot in terms of water as we recycle the sewage and treat it for irrigation, which costs nothing. This means that you are ensuring sustainability and lifting the value of your asset and experience for a minimal cost. There is a cost when you invest in trees, but when you consider sustainability from an economic viewpoint, it is actually cost efficient. When it comes to using technology, this also connects to sustainability and we have smart homes in our project in order to be more power efficient. On a larger scale, we also employ smart city technology with smart traffic management, waste management and smart renewable power to reduce emissions.
Do you have any plans for regional development?
We currently only have activity in Sharjah, but are planning to enter Dubai and Saudi Arabia. We have three mega projects. Nasma Residences, comprising 1,000 villas in Sharjah, is completed. The second project is Aljada, which is a city project, while our third project, Masaar, is a 4,000-villa community built within a forest setting. We are looking at a fourth project in Sharjah and in the short-term hope to announce a scheme in Dubai that we are planning to start next year, and we are still looking at the potential for Saudi Arabia. We have been researching and analyzing the right time and the right project to enter the market. Once we achieve our goals in the UAE as a whole, and then Saudi Arabia, the next step will be international.
What are your goals and expectations for the rest of this year?
For 2021 our focus is as always on delivery. We are really driven to keep delivering and increasing our numbers, so last year we delivered 1,000 homes and our goal is to deliver 2,000 homes with 4,000 homes the following year. That also correlates with contracts; last year we awarded AED1 billion worth of contracts, and this year we will award AED1.5 billion worth, which is a trajectory we expect to grow further. When it comes to sales revenue last year, we achieved AED1.75 billion, which was 35% above the year before. For this year we have set a target of AED2.3 billion, which would amount to 30% growth. On all metrics and KPIs we are predicting healthy growth, but also focusing on becoming stronger on the destination side of things. We have established strategic partnerships with Sharjah Film Festival and put up a drive-in cinema in Aljada. With swimming and sports a part of our active lifestyle, we have also teamed up with Sharjah Women's Sports, allowing them to use our facilities, and have sponsored them to help them grow. We also have a partnership with the Ministry of Environment and Sustainability to help to structure and improve the environmental aspects of our developments.